Midwifery is more than just delivering babies; most midwives spend months taking care of their clients before the big day arrives. Even if you love babies, being a midwife might not be the career for you. Midwifery takes a certain skillset, including a degree of manual dexterity and a tolerance for pregnant women and women in labor -- not always the most rational creatures. But if helping women give birth is your passion, the skills you need will usually flow out of your love for the profession.
Newborn babies don't weigh much to lift, but pregnant women sometimes do. Midwives generally don't cart pregnant women around, but you might need to help a woman get into a different position, including holding her legs to facilitate birth in some instances, supporting her back during labor or giving her a massage. Some women give birth on the floor or in a tub, which means you might spend part of her labor on the floor or bending over.
You don't need to be a genius to deliver babies. You do need to be able to think ahead and plan for the next sequence of events during a birth. You also need to recognize when things are deviating from the norm, to make a plan to correct any problems and to think quickly in a crisis, although crisis situations are uncommon in women with uncomplicated pregnancies. To take care of clients before labor, you must have a knowledge about what's normal and what's not in pregnancy and labor. You also need to recognize your limitations and know when you need help.
Along with the ability to think quickly as a midwife, you also need to be able to act decisively and keep your cool even if those around you are losing theirs. Birth isn't always a calm, cosmic event. Family members can fight, your birthing mom can begin to lose heart, tempers can flare and emergency situations can arise. You're the person who has to keep things together by projecting an air of calm and control. At the same time, when things are going as they should in a birth, you also need the confidence to step back and let the laboring mom make her own decisions without you trying to take charge.
Balancing the needs of a woman in labor along with her family members, including sometimes her other children, can take a bit of psychology. You need the ability to know when to push a woman in labor a little harder and when to leave her alone. You might also have to handle a nervous father and give him the confidence to step into the caregiver role. Helping other children in the family through the sometimes tumultuous experience of birth can also be part of the challenge of midwifery.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.